It occurred to me that with a new administration coming into office, it might be time to re-open the issue of how vendors like Comcast resell access to something that doesn't belong to them, the Internet. It seems there ought to be some rules about what they can and can't do, since they don't behave reasonably on their own.
If all they were selling was access to other Comcast customers, it might make sense for them to be so awful with their customers, but this is a case where they have something close to a monopoly providing access to a public space, and a clear conflict of interest, a reason to want to cripple that public space. Seems like a time when the government should take an interest in regulating what they can and can't do. Imho.
I've had a few months for my own personal Comcast debacle to settle in, and have a few thoughts this morning to share.
A review of what happened...
1. When I moved into the new house in Berkeley, I got Comcast for TV and AT&T DSL for Internet. I had had terrible experience with Comcast at the apartment I rented while house shopping, lots of outages, and lots of time spent on the phone with Comcast trying to convince them the problem was theirs and not mine, each time resulting in them fixing the problem on their end. I wanted to see if DSL would be any more reliable. I've found that it is quite reliable. (However in the end so was Comcast, at least at a technical level. The problems at the apartment were probably due to the newness of the building, high turnover of tenants and construction projects nearby.)
2. At some point I saw a story on TechMeme saying that AT&T was playing funny games with their customers, so I decided to order Comcast Internet service as a backup, in case something went weird with my AT&T DSL service. The Comcast service was unused for many months, there was no need for me to use it, AT&T service was fine. If ain't broke don't fix it, an old belief of mine.
3. Then the fateful moment -- I saw a tweet from Dave Sifry saying he had just done a perf test on his Comcast service and found it was delivering incredible throughput. I immediately did the test on my own, and was amazed that it was delivering a consistent 14 megabits up, 5 megabits down, sometimes with as high as 28 megabits up. That did it, a few days later I switched the roles of the two networks, using AT&T as the backup and Comcast as the primary.
4. At roughly the same time I was starting active testing of the photo aggregator part of FlickrFan. I had five computers running the software, all downloading hundreds of high-rez pics every day from AP and AFP. I only needed one, but as I said I was burning in the software, and sheez, I had all that bandwidth, the net never got slow, and it was a source of pride at first that I could do it and then I forgot they were all running. Until one day...
5. My Internet service was cut. I thought it was an outage, but when I called, I was told they had cut me off deliberately. I was current with my bill (if I recall correctly a total of about $180 per month for both services), but they said I was using too much bandwidth, though they wouldn't say how much I had used. I found it more than appalling that they cut me off just to get me to call them when they could have sent an email, or communicated through comcastcares on Twitter. There are so many better ways to communicate with customers. But I think they must have hired a psychiatrist who told them if you want customers to be compliant, treat them like overdue college-age billpayers, even when they're customers in good standing. You're more likely to get what you want. I wrote up the experience on my weblog, as I am doing now.
They told me that if I didn't reduce my Internet usage to what they considered a normal level, without specifying what that was or offering me any way to measure my usage, they would cut me off again, only next time the outage would be for 12 months. I know this must sound unreal, that I must be exaggerating, I wouldn't believe it myself if I were reading it on someone else's blog, but that's what they said.
6. Having been threatened, I did two things. I reduced the use of the Internet on my LAN and I ordered DirecTV so, in case this happened again, I would just revert to AT&T and would have the redundant TV service. I also bought EyeTV devices for three of my computers so I could receive digital over-the-air broadcasts. It amazes people when they find out that such high quality transmissions are available for free over the public air waves.
7. Of course, eventually they cut me off again. I think it was after I downloaded all the content off my server onto a local hard disk for backup (it was shortly after doing that that they cut me off, I'm saying it wasn't likely a coincidence). Rather than call them, I instructed comcastcares to cancel my service, giving me the slightest shred of pride and honor, having been treated so shabbily by a vendor, in the end it was I who cut them off, not vice versa. (Yeah sure, if you believe that...)
8. No I never forget shit like this. Sorry.
Kevin Werbach, who is well-known in the tech industry, has been appointed to the Obama transition team for the FCC.
Marc Canter raises questions about Werbach's relationship with AT&T, and by implication, other vendors in the communication industry.
There were at least two things I learned from going to the DNC this year that I wouldn't have known if I hadn't gone.
1. There wasn't much disunity in the party between Clinton and Obama supporters. I knew this because, while the television networks were reporting a big division, you just didn't see it in Denver. When there were demonstrators, it was always the same group of about ten people. They looked like the people you see at street demos in Berkeley, who, sorry to say, no one takes seriously. There were far more abortion protestors present than Hillary protestors. Orders of magnitude more. You could also see it by talking to people who wore Hillary badges in the convention center, which I did. A few times I sat next to them, or was in a line with them, and we talked and everyone agreed that this was a Democratic year, and nothing would stand in the way of that. I think McCain's people listened too much to the TV people, and didn't bother to check with the people at the show and they overestimated division in the party.
2. There are a number of perennial Democratic Party issues, they will always get applause from Democratic audiences. The teachers union, for example, has always been a big voting bloc among Dems, and Democratic speakers always get a big cheer when they advocate raising the pay of teachers. A number of other topics are pretty good too, but the best consistent applause line, the one that got people on their feet every time at the DNC was the destruction of civil liberties by the Republicans in the last 8 years. I'm sure the leaders of the Democratic Party weren't in the hall for all the speeches, so I hope they don't miss this. If they don't do something to reverse the mistakes of the last 8 years, even while dealing with the economic and security issues, they will quickly lose the support of the party.
There's often talk that Gabe Rivera is in Mike Arrington's pocket, and some days even I believe that talk, but then I just stumbled on something that reminded me that of all the people who are involved in aggregating the web, he's the one guy who more often than not does the right thing, and shares his sources, opening the door for competitors.
This is the philosophy that the web was founded on, but too often people draw from the well without giving back. I've been told, when criticizing people for doing that, that I'm naive -- maybe so, but I'm also a realist, knowing that if too many people do that, eventually there will be nothing left to build on.
Anyway, I just noticed a link at the bottom of Memeorandum, the political version of TechMeme, that has become a mainstay of mine through the 2008 election (and a secret for the few people in the political blogosphere who follow it), to the leaderboard. I sent the link to my friend Nicco Mele, saying I don't know how I missed this, but I had, and that an aggregation of the list would make a good product.
Then I noticed there was an OPML file with all the sources, and sure enough it links to the RSS feeds. So it would be no work at all to assemble the aggregation.
Is it in any way in Gabe's interest to share this info? Hard to see how. But he shared it anyway. And for that he gets my respect and appreciation and a virtual piece of cheescake.
Dave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
My most recent trivia on Twitter.
© Copyright 1997-2008 Dave Winer.
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